At the beginning of the year, I decided that I would challenge myself to spending $1500 this year on my food budget. I have had lots of questions regarding my own rules and regulations about my little experiment.
Probably the most frequent question is what do I include in my food budget. I generally include anything that is a constantly renewed resource, other than clothing. This includes people food, pet food, cleaning products, paper goods, light bulbs, etc. Almost every thing I purchase is done with coupons. If it is not bought directly with coupons, it can be bought with overage, OYNO deals, or ECBs. Yes, occassionally, I have to buy things, just like every one else, without coupons.
With all that said, however, eating out is NOT included in my food budget. That money either comes from our fun money or entertainment budget. Going out to dinner is entertainment for us. Grabbing an occassional Happy Meal and heading to the park for a quick trip is fun for us. We do not eat out a ton, but we probably do eat out more often than some families. We try to aim for no more than once a week. We about one big family meal out a month (usually at our great local steakhouse).
Another thing that often comes up is if the money I make off stockpile sales will reduce my budget. No. Any money made from stockpile sales does not reduce the amount I have already spent. Currently, any money I profit from sales is going towards our upcoming family vacation. We have been looking forward to it all year, and that week at the beach will be a sweet reward for spending all those hours in the sun hocking my coupon gotten gains.
Other frequent questions include how I include fruits and veggies into our diets with such a limited budget. We are very blessed to be recipients of bounties from other people's gardens during the warm months. I use the skills that my mamma taught me all those hours canning, so that I can put up those wonderful gifts and we can have them all year long. I also get a great deal of canned and frozen goods for very cheap or free couponing. Although I realize that people argue that canned foods do not have the same nutritional value as fresh, we actually PREFER canned green beans to fresh ones. And frozen foods have almost the same nutrional value as their fresh counterparts that are cooked the same ways. I do still buy fruits, generally bananas, and lettuce (which can often be had for free with coupons), as well as tomatoes, cucumbers and onions. We do not use fresh potatoes, so the instant ones are perfect for us, since (of course) they are often free. But, yes, we do have plenty of fruits and veggies in our diets, just most of them come from free sources and are frozen or canned, so you will rarely see me gloating over a great coupon deal on them.
Sometimes people are afraid their questions may seem as critism, but I honestly don't take them that way. I am not ashamed of the way that I feed my family. I feel as if I do the absolute best I can with what I have. Well, maybe not absolute, because I am quite sure that I could do better, but I am learning more and more every day.
I still do not know if I will make my budget, since it is barely 2 1/2 months into the year, but I feel like I am still good so far. Hopefully, I will learn enough along the way that I can reduce my budget even further next year. I would love to see my budget fall to around $1000 a year. Right now, with rising prices, I am not sure if it is feasible, but I would love to see if I can make that goal one day. Even if I don't, to think that I once spent $500 a month, and now spend less than $150 a month, is proof enough to me that if I can do it, anyone can.
Got more questions? Let's hear them! I love to help others learn to save!